Local News

Judge Dismisses Charges Against Chapel Hill Rabbi

Posted August 10, 2001

— A housekeeper says Chapel Hill rabbi Pinchas (Pinny) Lew exposed himself while she was cleaning his house, but the judge dismissed the case.

Prosecutors say they did a lot of research, trying to find the charge that best fit what the victim says happened. After hours of tearful testimony, the judge decided there is not one.

Lucia Garcia burst into tears on the witness stand as she described an encounter with Lew.

"He said 'you like it?' while he was pulling up his parts," testified Garcia.

Garcia testified that Rabbi Lew followed her around the house with his bathrobe open, making suggestive comments.

She says she ran out the back door when Lew went upstairs -- a detail that led Judge Joe Buckner to dismiss the case. Buckner said prosecutors could not prove that Garcia feared "imminent physical harm."

"And it seemed that what the judge was saying is that when she ran out of the house, he had gone upstairs, and perhaps that was not a sufficient nexus to show reasonable fear of imminent bodily harm," said Prosecutor Kayley Taber.

Lew's family and friends applauded the dismissal, but did not want to talk on camera afterwards.

Lew's lawyer is talking. He says the rabbi has always denied the assault charge.

"I can assure you that the Lews denied any wrongdoing on the rabbi's part, and if you got to know him you wouldn't think he'd done anything wrong either," said Bill Massengale.

Lew has a lot of supporters who stood by him during this case, and also after learning recently that he drove the getaway car during an armed robbery ten years ago. Lew received probation in the robbery case. After today's ruling, the assault case is also closed.

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